The role of a practice manager is crucial to the day-to-day running and development of General Practice. It brings a whole range of duties and responsibilities that require different “hats” to wear to ensure the balance is just right for a productive and enjoyable day in practice.
I wanted to share some of the skills I have been fortunate to develop in the 20 years of being a very proud practice manager within an accountancy firm. I call them “The P’s to a Perfect Practice”.
Your patients and team’s experience of the practice you are running starts the moment they take their first step into the surgery. There is no magic wand for ensuring you run a great practice, if there was the CQC would be out of work!
Fundamentally, there is a duty of care. Generally, these guidelines are set out by the GMS contract to meet standards and ensuring that the premises is safe, clean and accessible for your patients and team. However, always look at going one step further.
- Look at ways you can improve your waiting room by ensuring it is a pleasant place for your patients to sit and wait for their GP. Ensure magazines are in date and perhaps play background music, although a Public Performance Licence (PPL) may be required.
- Take the opportunity to advertise to your captive audience. Use this space to promote the additional practice services that you offer, free marketing, with the use of current posters or leaflets. Most of you already offer basic medical advice via a screen.
- Be proactive as opposed to reactive - organise regular maintenance visits to maximise the efficiency of your practice and reduce the risk of big maintenance work being required. This allows time to ask trade persons to quote to ensure you get the most competitive rate.
The practice is nowhere without its patients, so exceptional customer care is essential at all times to both increase and sustain your registered list.
- Ensure your team appreciate empathy with your patients. Provide your team with training, if required, so they are skilled to deal with challenging circumstances and to handle complaints professionally. This will enforce the quality of the services offered to patients.
- Build a strong and caring culture within your team. Share the mission to provide your patients with a happy journey from the phone enquiries, checking in at reception, the GP appointment itself and wishing them a safe journey when they exit.
- Monitor your patient satisfaction. Carry out regular surveys using online platforms, good old fashioned paper forms or patient feedback texts after they have visited the practice. However, it is essential that you review this feedback and set an action plan on areas that need improvement, or discuss with the partners in your meetings.
Look after them. You are not a GP, like I am not an accountant, so that is why we are invaluable to them. We are the bridging gap required to help and support their business and to be their pillar of support.
- Take the time to understand the demands that they are being placed under so it becomes apparent as to the different ways you can assist them.
- Review the opportunities to develop the business, this will enable you to manage the practice better by setting budgets and goals to maximise the profits.
- Arrange business meetings with the partners once a month to specifically discuss practice matters and exploit opportunities. Prepare a clear agenda to enable you to facilitate the time well so you cover all that you require confirmation on in the given timescale. Prepare minutes afterwards to have a record of what has been discussed, and use this as a to-do list or action plan of implementation for new projects, goals and objectives for the business.
- Always set yourself a realistic time budget for innovation, then watch the ideas evolve into reality.
As they say, there is no “I” in team, so invest in a good team and like any good business it is important to have the right people doing the right job.
- Analyse all areas of the practice activities. Ensure to free up any administrative time from your doctors and nurses to allow them more time with patients.
- Look at your administrative team. Are they all good at what they are employed for, or are you carrying “dead-wood”?
- Don’t just leave it to the yearly appraisal to check whether your team are okay and achieving the level of work you are expecting of them.
- Let your team know that you trusted and engaged. Ensure they are clear on your strategic vision of where you and the partners want the practice to be.
- Show appreciation when credit is due and reward accordingly.
- Deal with staff who are underperforming appropriately as this can lead to demotivation to the rest of your team who are positively performing.
I highly recommend a great little book called “Gung Ho!”, which gives useful ways to promote excellent morale in the workplace.
Good processes make a good practice. Communicate them throughout your team.
- Make sure your procedures are simple and straightforward. It is helpful to have these documented as “bibles” so team members can revert to them if unsure on how to execute a task.
The world of the NHS is forever changing, so stay on top of those changes and plan well in advance.
- Keep up to date with the latest developments in primary healthcare.
- Keep up to date with latest software and technology that will assist the practice.
- Understand and plan for your financial year end, this can be done with the use of accountancy/book-keeping software that can be maintained on a weekly basis.
Be extremely organised.
- Good time management skills allow you the confidence to know that you will get done what needs to get done, but also allows for the unexpected.
- Time manage your day and always lead by example.
- Delegate. Learn who within your team or suppliers can help you out because, as we know, we only have limited hours in the day to get all the above done.
For all the practice managers I am fortunate to know in General Practice, I know you are already great managers and running great practices, so my article may be like teaching your “grandmother to suck eggs”. However, the truth is, when we get bombarded, we all need to “Stay Calm, and Carry on” and go back to the “P’s of a Perfect Practice”.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. Don’t be afraid to ask or share with a fellow PM, as the truth is, they are probably feeling the same as you in our “busy” times. And remember, I am always here to help, where I can, too.